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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A 2010 Playlist for Outer Space (Update on Carl Sagan's '77 List)

Posted By on Wed, Apr 7, 2010 at 12:11 PM

New York's Vulture blog recently posted a link to the music Carl Sagan helped provide for robotic probes Voyager 1 and 2 back in the early days of space exploration. According to Lapham's Quarterly, Sagan was part of a curatorial crew that etched a soundtrack perfect for galaxy viewing into a "12-inch, gold-plated copper record that was placed aboard the two space ships in 1977."

That's a mixtape concept I can totally get behind. The next time they shoot an unmanned space probe towards other planets, I'd kill to etch my playlist onto a copper slab -- especially since space rock, as it were, has come a long way.

Sagan's list is definitely interesting. It's heavy on world music: the pieces include a Soviet bagpipe song, a Native American chant, a Peruvian wedding song, an Indian raga, Beethoven symphonies, and, for the moments when the mechanical astronauts are having an introspective Moon moment, a little of Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night."

On the off chance that NASA needs a new DJ, here are my ten pieces of mood music for space machines as they cruise among the stars:

1. Moon Duo, "Killing Time"

This one is a no-brainer. Local spacetronic act Moon Duo already evokes images of crater exploration in this video, and the celestial drones behind the motorik beat seem perfect for antigravity grooving.

 2.  Comets on Fire, "Brotherhood of the Harvest"


2. Comets on Fire, "Brotherhood of the Harvest"

Another act whose name just lends itself to a Voyager jukebox, Comets on Fire display its talent for both giant feedback outbursts and more melodic movements on this single, off 2004's Blue Cathedral. Bonus: all those strange little noises Noel Harmonson conjures with his echoplex could mean something to the aliens out there. 

3. Sun Ra, "Space Is the Place"


Sun Ra claimed he took a couple of trips to the Moon. He returned from those travels to create some very futuristic music and films, ushering in "another tomorrow" of other dimensions.

4. Hawkwind, "Master of the Universe"


Hawkwind had been around for almost a decade when Sagan made his Voyager playlist, but he didn't include warped sci-fi rock from these Brits, for some strange reason. Perhaps other lifeforms would protest Earthlings who claimed to be their masters.

5. Barn Owl, (no song title)


Local duo Barn Owl is a current musical obsession of mine. Its exploratory, instrumental music already makes you feel like you're floating through time and space.

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Ian S. Port


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